Campeche, Mexico

After a handful of days in Mérida, my friend and I made our way to the sleepy town of Campeche. When we arrived, we took a taxi from the bus station to our Airbnb. The ride cost about $45MXN.

We stayed in an Airbnb for four nights. It’s located about two miles outside of the city center but is accessible by bus and taxi. Our host was very friendly and showed us around the property. There is a pool (though unheated), a patio, and the Gulf of Mexico right in the backyard. The water is calm and warm though there are rocks in the water so I recommend wearing water shoes. Since we had a kitchen in the apartment, we walked to a supermarket nearby and grabbed some groceries. We stayed in for a handful of meals to save some money.

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The view from our Airbnb patio.
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There’s a sidewalk that stretches for miles along the shore as well as bike and running paths as you get closer to the city center.

When we did go into town, we ate some amazing food. One of my favorite meals was at La Olla de la Pagoda. My friend and I were given a complimentary cup of zucchini soup with pesto that was jaw-droppingly good. Our entrees were also delicious and affordable at about $70MXN each. I wish we would have gone back a second time.

We stopped at Restaurant Los Abuelos for lunch one day and were not disappointed. Our meals, enchiladas verdes and a chile relleno, were flavorful and enormous. Our total bill with drinks was around $180MXN.

We also grabbed coffee at Café Sotavento. We didn’t eat there but the food looked fantastic.

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We wandered around Campeche and enjoyed the colorful buildings and architecture. We also did a little shopping while in town. We wandered into Casa de Artesanias Tukulna but were actually more impressed with the handmade options in a store across the street. I didn’t get the name of the shop but they sell beautiful jewelry, textiles, and gems. I highly recommend stopping in.

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Our few days in Campeche were very relaxing though I think it helped that there were no cruise ships pulling into Progreso while we were in Campeche. I definitely recommend checking the cruise ship schedule ahead of time and then plan accordingly. It can get very busy and crowded. I can’t wait to go back and continue exploring Campeche and the area.

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Campeche, Mexico

Mérida, Mexico

I spent a handful of days with friends in Mérida and really enjoyed the town. We stayed at the Nomadas Hostel to save a little money. If the hostel didn’t have a pool, I can’t say I would stay there again. The rooms were acceptable but the free breakfast was not good and the customer service at the front desk was poor. Also, we had to wear wristbands while staying there. People kept asking us if we were staying at an all inclusive or if we’d been at a rave.

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Wristbands, seriously?

We spent our days wandering around town, eating and drinking, and lounging by the pool at the hostel. We visited Mercado San Benito a handful of times for some cheap food.

We also took a cooking class with Urban Adventures. We toured the market with Gustavo then went to his aunt’s house for a cooking lesson. Once all the food was ready, we ate an amazing meal together as a group. This was definitely a highlight of my time in Mérida.

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Photo credit: Pamela Dawn

Thanks to the lovely and talented Pamela Dawn for sharing her amazing photos with me. Find her Instagram feed here.

Along with the cooking class with it’s delicious local dishes, we kept eating (and drinking) our way around Mérida.

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One of the many delicious spreads while visiting Mérida.

We stopped by Huevos Motuleños twice for breakfast. The food and the service were outstanding. The main dining room is small but there is additional seating and an outdoor terrace upstairs.

We popped into La Negrita Cantina for drinks and enjoyed the lively atmosphere. We also visited Mercado 60 for a drink and some food. It was fun but more expensive than I think it’s worth.

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When we needed a light snack or meal, we’d walk down to Gorditas Doña Gorda. The gorditas are small; one is a perfect snack, 2-3 work for a light meal. Each gordita costs around $15MXN. Also, they have a handful of vegetarian options on the menu.

For delicious tacos, we visited Wayan´e. There are a handful of locations but we went to the one on Calle 59. I ordered three tacos and a Coke. They were filling and my lunch only cost $42MXN.

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In between eating, we visited the cathedral and learned about the city and its history.

We stayed in town for most of our visit but did spend an afternoon at the beach in Progreso. We hopped on a bus ($38MXN roundtrip) and were there in about 45 minutes. The beach was clean and not too crowded for such a hot day.

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Buses to Progreso leave from the Auto Progreso station.
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Mérida is filled with color and texture.

When I started planning my next move, I wanted to know all of my bus options. As I’ve mentioned in a past blog, the bus companies in Mexico (ADO and and it’s subsidiaries) are getting organized and a little more expensive. In Mérida there are two different bus stations one for the 1st class buses; another for the 2nd class buses. They are near each other so that makes it easier. And while they offer the same routes, the departure times, trip lengths, and, of course, prices are very different. To get from Mérida to Campeche, I chose to take a 1st class bus (but not the Platinum option) which cost about $127MXN one way. ADO also has an app that you can download but the ticket prices are a tad higher, maybe an extra $1-3USD per ticket. This is also true of purchasing tickets through their website. If you have the option, I recommend buying tickets at the bus station so you can save a little money and this way you know exactly where you need to be. I found another blog that covers the ADO bus system in more detail. I recommend checking it out if you plan on taking a lot of buses around Mexico.

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Choose your bus station; but choose wisely.
Mérida, Mexico

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent had so much more to offer than I was expecting. I thought it would be a sleepy, little town where I would get bored after a few days. But that definitely was not the case. After five days, I kept finding more places I wanted to check out and I couldn’t fit everything in. I also found that the tourism website was very helpful, more so than I expected. I recommend visiting it for practical information as well as recommendations around town.  

For the first two days, I was on my own and stayed at the Kaba Hostel. While I had a great stay there, it was further from the city center than I would have liked. But it also gave me a chance to check out the Southeast side of town before I moved to an Airbnb with a friend on the North side of town. 

While in town, I took advantage of the good weather and wandered and meandered everywhere. I also took a boat tour, a free walking tour, and even rented a kayak from Hostel Uppelink.

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Kayaking the calm canals of Ghent. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

I also took a free night walking tour. The guide, Ben, had a lot of very interesting history and knowledge about the city. And he timed the tour to end just at midnight.

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I visited all of the churches in town and, of course, the Ghent Alterpiece (Adoration of the Mystic Lamb). For art lovers, this is essential. For everyone else, it’s also essential. Pay the €4, listen to the audio guide (offered in a bunch of languages), and learn about the incredibly interesting history of this artwork. 

I also visited the Museum voor Schone Kunsten for an exhibition called Women of the Baroque. The entrance fee for both the permanent exhibit and the temporary exhibits was €14. All of the exhibits were wonderfully curated. I was also able to see the panels from the Ghent Alterpiece that were being restored. 

But more than anything, I enjoyed the food in Ghent. The city has fully embraced the local and organic food movements. There are food co-ops, farm to table restaurants, and vegetarian options galore. My favorites where Lokaal, Soep Plus, and Le Botaniste. Note that Le Botaniste looks really fancy from the outside but is actually very casual.  All three of these restaurants were affordable, healthy, and delicious. 

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I ordered a trio of hummuses at Le Botaniste. Yum!

I also checked out a few of the organic markets. My favorite was the Beo Markt. They do have a restaurant thought I didn’t eat there, I did buy delicious fruit and vegetables.

For drinks, I found a great little wine bar called Baravins. I liked the place so much I stopped by a second time during my visit. The bartender was friendly, helpful, and generous with the snacks.

I also ate some delicious Italian food while in Ghent. My friend and I had dinner at Shazanna after grabbing drinks at Baravins. Our pizzas were amazing and filling. My dinner and a glass of wine cost €22. I ate more Italian food a few days later when I visited Firenze for lunch. It is a cozy restaurant with a great family feel. If you are in the area, check it out.

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Firenze was a delicious place to pop into after a visit to the art museum. The olives and wine tided me over until my pasta arrived.

On my way into town, I didn’t use public transportation when leaving the train station and hoofed it all the way to my hostel with my backpack in tow. But on my way out of town, I decided to take the tram to the train station. The cost for one ticket on the Lijnwinkel tram was €1.60. Later, I found out that this same transit system is in Antwerp, and possibly other cities in Belguim. 

Ghent, Belgium

Verona, Italy

I spent two nights in Verona and while I was not as enamored with the town as others are, I do have a few recommendations if you plan on visiting. 

I stayed at a small bed & breakfast which I cannot recommend enough. The owner was  warm and inviting, the room was stylish and comfortable, and the breakfast was tasty and satisfying. Plus, I splurged on the room with a balcony and did not regret it. At $76USD per night, the room was more expensive than I usually budget for while traveling on my own, but a friend joined me at the last minute which helped with the cost and made the visit to Verona that much sweeter.

There are two restaurants that I enjoyed while in Verona. L’Imbottito delle 4 Ciacole is located on Via Giovanni della Casa and was delightful. My friend and I stopped in for lunch and were amazed by the affordable menu and the deliciousness that followed. In a country where dining out can add up quickly, we were very pleased with the quality of our meals and their prices. My lunch, which included a glass of wine, cost €15. The food was so amazing that we returned the following night for a little more food after drinking and snacking our way around town. 

My other favorite place was Gastronomia Stella, a quaint little deli and restaurant in the center of town. My friend and I perused the deli options, ordered a few items, and then a few more from the menu. We then grabbed a table outside and ate to our hearts content. Once again, our meals were affordable, about €12 each, though the cost can climb as the some of the deli selections are priced by weight.

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I stumbled across this funky yellow car while wandering the streets of Verona.

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Verona, Italy

Kobarid, Slovenia

We didn’t originally plan on visiting the small town of Kobarid but I am so happy that we did. We rented an apartment in the city center which included a parking spot, wifi, and a washing machine. For $65USD per night, the three bedroom apartment was more than we needed but was the same price as some of the hotels in town. We took advantage of having a kitchen and a grocery store across the street to save some money.

We explored the surrounding area as well as the town itself. We walked and then hiked  to Slap Kozjak. This is one time that I was happy to have other hikers on the path as finding the waterfall was a little confusing.

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The closer you get to the waterfall, the narrower the path becomes.

We also visited the Tolmin Gorges. The visit to this gorge involved a lot more climbing and hiking than the Vintgar Gorge but was just as stunning. Sadly, due to the climbing, I did not take any photos to share. But once again, the €5 entrance fee was worth the chance to explore this stunning area of Slovenia.

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The Soca River runs just outside of Kobarid.

While in town, we visited the Kobarid Museum, (Kobariski Muzej). The place is packed with photographs and mementos from battles fought nearby during World War I. There is a short video presentation which is offered in multiple languages. I am glad we stopped by and learned more about this incredible area and it’s history.

Also while in town, we did what we do best; eat. We visited a few of the local restaurants but none stood out like Hisa Polonka. We actually ate here twice in three days. The dishes vary in size so beware of ordering to little or too much. The food was delicious and the service was friendly and inviting. Both times we ate there, our bill averaged around €45. This included drinks, appetizers, and entrees.

We also enjoyed a local food and art festival while in town. The food options (mussels, pastas, stews, etc.) were all tasty and flavorful though not as affordable as one would expect in such a small town. We ate lunch and grabbed a few local beers and glasses of wine and spent a total of €42. There were local musicians and singers performing for the crowds which we really enjoyed. We had a wonderful time in Kobarid and I would recommend a visit to this charming town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kobarid, Slovenia

Laghi di Fusine, Italy

We took a small detour from Slovenia for an afternoon to visit the Lakes of Fusine (Laghi di Fusine). These lakes are picturesque and were definitely a highlight of our roadtrip. We lucked out with warmer than expected weather and took full advantage of the sunshine. We hiked around the smaller of the two lakes (Lago Inferiore di Fusine) for awhile and then stopped by a cafe on the other lake. It’s a great place to explore nature’s beauty.
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There are boat rentals on the larger of the two lakes near the cafe we visited.

Laghi di Fusine, Italy

Roadtrip in Slovenia

We rented a car at the Venice airport and drove around Slovenia for 12 days. We visited so many amazing places on our roadtrip and found the roads to be in good condition. Slovenia no long has active toll booths on their highways. Instead, you purchase a sticker for your car, called a vignette. There are no tolls to pay anymore but if you do not buy the sticker, and you get caught, the penalty is high. We purchased the monthly vignette for €30 at a gas station just after crossing the Italy/Slovenia board.
 
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We stayed the night in a small hotel located in a picturesque valley near the Logar Valley. The hotel room was spacious and comfortable. And though the temperatures were dropping outside, we took full advantage of the balcony facing the mountains. We opted for dinner at the hotel as it is somewhat secluded (though signs are posted to help you find your way). Dinner consisted of three hearty courses though no menu was provided and our choices were limited. Dinner, with a drink each, cost €34. While we had a bumpy check-in process (our room wasn’t ready even though it was late in the afternoon), the hotel and farm itself were a wonderful treat. I wish we could have stayed longer.
 
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Enjoying a glass of wine and the view from the balcony.

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On the afternoon of our arrival in the area, we drove to the Logar Valley, walked around a bit, and enjoyed the scenery. We returned the next morning in hopes of taking more photos (the sun rises and therefore shines on the mountains in the morning and sets behind them in the evening) but discovered a man charging €7 to enter the valley. We did not think it was worth it  as we had visited the day before (a Sunday) for free. So on we went along on our adventure with a little more money in our pockets.
 
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Logar Valley in the late afternoon light.
We decided to visit Lake Bled but stay at Lake Bohinj and were very happy with our choice. We spent the day hiking above Lake Bled then drove to Lake Bohinj. 
 
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A panorama of Lake Bled and Slovenia’s only island.
When we drove the length of Lake Bohinj, we realized that none of the accommodations actually have a solid view of the lake. Knowing this, we decided to rent a small apartment at one end of the lake as it was cheaper than most of the other options. After checking in, we walked across the street, settled onto a bench and enjoyed the view (and our mugs of wine). At €56 per night, we couldn’t have asked for a better location.
 
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For dinner, we wandered down the path on the East side of the lake to get to Restavracija Kramar. We grabbed a few drinks as the sun was setting and finished off the visit with a small salad and cevapi, lamb and beef sausages. Our dinner and drinks ended up costing €25. We also visited a restaurant in town specializing in burgers. Foksner, was bustling when we arrived and the recommendations from locals did not disappoint. Two burgers, fries, and two drinks, again, cost €25. The burger options could be more diverse but the food and the service were great.
 
While in the area, we visited the Vintgar Gorge. We arrived early to miss the tour buses and crowds. There is a boardwalk stretching along the one mile walk through nature. The visit was a highlight of our trip and was well worth the €5 ticket price per person.
 
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We also visited the Savica waterfall near Lake Bohinj. The hike is short and the waterfall is a magnificent sight. The cost to access the waterfall was only a few euros.
 
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Slap Savica in all of its glory.
After the waterfall, we tried hiking to Cero jezero, a lake high up in the mountains above the waterfall but the climb became too extreme for us. When we came upon chains dangling from boulders, we knew we were out of our element and turned back. Next, we drove through the mountains above Lake Bohinj and made out way to Planina Blato. The huts were deserted and we enjoyed our time alone in nature. We did pay €10 per car at the base of the mountain road but it was worth the views and the experience.
 
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One of many huts in this valley surrounded by mountains and trees.
While in Triglav National Park we wandered through Kranska Gora, Bovec, and many other beautiful towns. We also drove the Vrsic Pass which has a total of fifty switchbacks. We were lucky enough to make the drive before the snow fell as I believe the pass is closed during the snowy months.
 
We also drove along the Soca River as it winds through the park. Along the river, there are many hanging bridges as well as hiking paths to explore.
 
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The beautiful Soca River.
Roadtrip in Slovenia